My new friend Lindy was taking me fishing. The prospect was exciting. There were no fish to be angled for Vancouver East, as far as I could tell, save for goldfish swimming in the pond of the old man two backyards east of mine. But that pond was closed to angling, as I learned with Donnie Cummings, who lived across the lane — and whose bright idea it was to try and snag those Koi with rods his dad used to fish salmon.
I had to be about five at the time, yet I can still clearly recall my dad trying, with some difficulty, to feign concern as the diminutive old Italian, clutching my arm in one hand, and Donnie’s dad’s stout trolling rod, giant wooden reel attached, with the other as he outlined the proportions of my crime.
Now that we’d moved to the wilds of North Burnaby, I imagined that fishing prospects might be promising.
Early next morning, Lindy and her dog, Trixie, were at my door. Mount Baker was clearly visible in the East. A blanket of fog lay atop the sprawling swamp that surrounded Burnaby Lake. We walked to the end of Grant Street and crossed Holdom Avenue. Between Kirsten Erland’s place and Dirks’s shuttered real estate office was a vacant lot filled with yellowed grass. I followed Lindy onto a well trodden trail through the field. She stopped under one of a trio of derelict apple trees and tore some hard apples from its limbs. After filling one of the two pockets in the shaggy Cowichan sweater she wore, she lifted the apple still in her hand, bit into it, wincing at its tartness.
I picked some of the hard fruit, slipped them into the pocket of my jeans and was undecided at that point whether I would risk a stomach ache and eat them later or use them as projectiles. After a short walk, we reached a clot of brush and brambles which gave way to an acre of waist high grass that in turn gave way to hardwood forest punctuated by the giant red stumps of the ancient softwood trees that had one lived there.
Lindy stopped at an old fence line. Before us was another field that, at one time, was used for grazing livestock. The land sloped steeply to the creek.
Lindy informed that the area was known as “The Valley”. This seemed a logical and good name. And, she told me in a grave tone, that we had to watch out for “the Kids.”
The kids, she said, were a gang of punks (my word not Lindy’s who referred to them as “Big Guys”) who upon spotting a trespasser within the bounds of what was presumably their folks’ fence line could be counted on to streak down the far flank of the valley (on legs longer than ours) and nab the scofflaw.
I doubt that knowing this before hand would have dissuaded me from the fishing trip with Lindy, but learning about the these vicissitudes certainly gave the electricity of the adventure a boost.
“What do they do if they catch ya?”
“They beatcha up,” Lindy answered matter-of-factly.
Then she proceeded to tell me how her brother Lloyd, who we regarded as fat and teased accordingly, but would be regarded as a little stocky today in this the age of fast food, was caught by the Big Kids who roughed him up pretty badly before kicking him in the pants and sending him off with a warning that there was worse in store for him should they catch him on their property again.
When there was what he considered a safe distance between them, Lloyd yelled to his assailants that they were going to get it once he let his big brother know what had befallen him. The threat proved hollow as David was too busy driving around in or working on his Ford Coupe to avenge his younger brother.
We stealthily made our way down to the creek. It was lined with maple, alder, and brush, and it was beautiful. Between the chattering riffles were small pools and undercut banks. It was hard to imagine a fish of any size in it.
I asked Lindy about this. She assured there were as she reached into her sweater pocket and produced a rectangular bobbin around which was wound green braided line.
Attached to the line were a small float, a pinch on lead sinker, and a snelled hook, a deadly iron with barbs on the back as well as the point.
Lindy pulled a small jar of dirt and worms. She plucked one of creatures from the jar and threaded the hook through its wriggled body, then lowered it into the closest pool.
“We’ll take turns,” she said.
A fish grabbed the bait. It was probably no more than six inches long, but in that context it looked really big. Lindy jerked it onto the bank and deftly broke its neck.
“It’s a beaut,” she said, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was looking at the kids racing down the slope toward us.
…to be continued…